Pokémon: Detective Pikachu Review

This review is spoiler free but may contain elements regarding the movie's structure and some minor contents.

Originally revealed in 2013 and released in 2016, Detective Pikachu was one of the stranger Pokémon spin-off games. Featuring a talking Pikachu, many dismissed the concept as absurd. However, before too long, it soon became a focal point of the Pokémon franchise.

A live-action Pokémon feature has been something both long desired and dreaded in the Pokémon community. Many wanted a retelling of the story of Ash and his Pikachu, so when The Pokémon Company and Legendary made a decision to create a live action movie, many were shocked for it to be Detective Pikachu. This does, however, work to the movie's advantage.

By separating it from the more widely known story and concept, it allows for it to feel more fresh, but rest assured this movie is not just a rehash of the video game. It's an adaptation, but not a direct one and there are many differences in both plot structure and concept.

Tim Goodman, played by Justice Smith, is a young man in his home town who soon gets called to Ryme City upon learning that his father has died in a car accident. When he reaches Ryme City, he comes across his father's partner Pokémon, a Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds who he can strangely understand as if he was speaking English. He soon meets Lucy Stevens, played by Kathryn Newton, a budding reporter for CNM News who claims his father was on to a big story. Tim reluctantly agrees to help find out the circumstances of what happened with his father and why Pikachu has lost his memory.

Ryme City is a city where Pokémon live in unison with humans. No Poké Balls, no battling, just living in harmony. Due to this, many of the standard tropes you'd expect from a Pokémon story aren't there. Battling plays a small part during the investigation, but unlike the Pokémon anime it is by no means a focal point of the story.

The plot moves along at a brisk pace, giving you enough time to absorb the story but not think things are dragging on too long. The plot is also quite serious despite the jovial parts brought on by Pikachu. It's not just an endless stream of jokes but has many elements that show heart and even some really dark moments. The interrogation with Mr. Mime is a prime example of this where it shows the story can be light and played for laughs but can take a somewhat dark turn.

The first half of the movie with Tim getting to know Pikachu is absolutely where the movie excels. In creating the bond with the absurdity of a talking Pikachu, it manages to hit many high notes and the mystery helps continue the plot at a very enjoyable rate. While it does continue on with its high quality as the movie progresses, many of the best elements of the movie are in the beginning and the noir detective style of the movie really shines through. The only problem may be the absurdity of the plans towards the end from the antagonist as it does shift slightly into the realms of what you'd expect from the anime movies which can be a little jarring in a real-world environment, but it in no way makes the movie bad.

We also have to mention the Pokémon. When people think realistic Pokémon, they often go for the hyper realistic concepts people have created in the past, but the movie does the Pokémon in such a unique way where they look realistic but also keep their cartoonish roots while being able to mesh into the world quite well. When you look at them, they are clearly the Pokémon and are recognizable. This is the area in which the movie has excelled. The only complaint would be that since there's only around 60 Pokémon in the movie, you end up seeing the same species over and over again. While this is an understandable concession due to the time required, it may leave some of the more hardcore fans a little dismayed.

The movie really plays the line a lot between hardcore Pokémon fan references and things for the uninitiated, but it never goes over the line one way or the other and keeps a perfect balance. Even if you don't know what Pokémon are, you will not have a problem following and enjoying the movie. For the hardcore Pokémon fan, you'll be delighted at various references to the overall world of Pokémon. References to Kanto and Sinnoh and spatterings of Legendary & Mythical Pokémon in parade balloons, ancient artwork and just artwork in the background will attract interest, although you may wind up feeling that it takes more elements from the anime than the games, especially in one scene where Detective Pikachu is walking alone. However, when you look at the original game, you'll see that it itself also took more inspiration from the anime so it is sticking true to its source material.

Overall, the movie will make you laugh, it will make you sad. It hits so many emotional beats and is an incredibly solid and enjoyable entry into the Pokémon universe. It is undoubtedly the best video game movie adaptation to date and can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of if they are a huge Pokémon fan or not. It certainly makes this reviewer hope that this is the start of something big.

Score: 4/5